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Are Moms of 3 Really More Stressed?

I'm a Mom of 3 — Is It Really the Most Stressful Number of Kids to Have?

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A 2013 survey claiming that women who have three children are the most stressed has found itself, once again, at the center of discussion. The survey, which reached 7,164 moms in the United States, found that women who had three children rated their stress levels at an 8.5 out of 10. That's a lot of stress! Now, if you're a mom of two who is expecting baby number three (or if you're like I was, a mom of one expecting babies two and three), don't freak out just yet. Because I'm here to tell you that this study should be taken with a grain of salt. Because having three any number of kids comes with a certain degree of stress.

After I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I stressed. I didn't know what to do with her and found myself googling things like "how to play with a newborn." I stressed after I fell asleep with her on my chest and when I thought I was pumping too much milk because that obviously meant she wasn't getting enough. But within a few short, sleep-deprived days, I stopped stressing. I felt my instincts kicking in, and I knew that everything was going to be alright. My baby and my body would let me know exactly what we needed, and all I had to do was listen and obey.

As far as I can tell, how stressed you are has little to do with how many children you have. We're all different. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, and fears. We all love our children unconditionally and want what's best for them.
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I stuck with that approach for the next three-and-a-half years, and it worked for us. So when I found out that I was expecting twins, I hoped to continue it. I'll admit that I didn't get off to a good start. I immediately started freaking out about a plethora of things: carrying two babies to term, how my daughter was going to handle her new role, what was going to happen to my body, how I was going to make the nursery work with two of everything, and so much more. Most of the things I started stressing over were trivial, but that didn't stop them from plaguing my overly hormonal brain for the next several months. But things always have a way of working themselves out. At 37 weeks, I was begging my doctor to bump up my scheduled C-section date, my daughter couldn't wait to meet her new sisters, I accepted the fact that my body would be forever changed, and the nursery looked just fine. Once my babies were finally home, I was pretty much back to my nonstressing self.

I've been doing this parenting thing for over four years now by the seat of my pants. I make mistakes and anticipate making many more of them in the years to come. Hopefully none of them irrevocably screw up my children. And while I do find myself stressing out here and there, it's usually over something small like getting out the door on time. I don't know if I'm some freak of nature because I don't let a lot of things get me down, but I'm pretty confident that three is not the magic stress number some claim it is.

Almost all of my friends are moms. Every single one of them stresses every now and again, because being a parent to any number of children will do that to you. Some stress more than others, like my friend who can barely hold it together with one kid. More often than not, she calls me in tears because babies are hard. I have another friend who's afraid to venture to the grocery store with all three of her children at once ("I only have two hands for two kids!") and another who absolutely cannot (or will not) leave the house with her children unless she has backup with her.

On the other hand, my best friend is exactly like me. She had her daughter followed by a set of twins, and she handles life like a freaking rock star. Another close friend started out with twins before adding a third and, also like me, doesn't let too much faze her. And another friend has four kids and is even more laid back than I am.

As far as I can tell, how stressed you are has little to do with how many children you have. I have friends on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. We're all different. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, and fears. We all love our children unconditionally and want what's best for them and for us. And sometimes, we all need a little extra support. And that's OK. If there's one thing I've learned as a parent, it's that it truly takes a village. And when you need that extra something, your village will be there, ready and willing to help.

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